On June 1, Naperville Public Library joined hundreds of libraries across the country in eliminating overdue fines. By doing so, the library hopes to share their collection and services with more of the Naperville community, focusing on access and equity, and helping to ease financial hardship for customers.
"This new policy will allow for increased flexibility for our customers, equitable access to resources and better customer service," said Naperville Public Library Executive Director Dave Della Terza. "Overdue fines create barriers to access, particularly for low-income families and children. One in four of our suspended library cards belong to children under the age of 14. Our goal is to get books and materials back into the hands of our community members who need them the most."
Rather than accruing fines, those who do not return materials on time will have their accounts locked after seven days. When an account is locked, customers will not be able to check out materials or access online digital collections. Once an overdue item is returned, the account will be automatically unlocked. No fines will be assessed; however, customers are still responsible for money owed for lost or damaged materials.
Overdue fines previously accounted for 1-2% of the library's $16 million budget and have been a declining source of revenue for several years. The change in policy will not affect taxpayers as the library does not depend on revenue from fines to maintain a healthy, responsible budget.
"Eliminating overdue fines will allow our staff to focus on having positive interactions with our customers and providing other important services to our community without affecting Napervillians' tax rate," said Della Terza.
Research and recent experience from other libraries show that overdue fines typically do not affect how quickly people return materials. Many times, libraries report better return rates because of the elimination of overdue fines. For example, Chicago Public Library saw a 240% increase in returned books in the month after they eliminated fines.
"The majority of other large libraries in Illinois have eliminated fines in recent years, including Bolingbrook, Plainfield, Downers Grove and Wheaton," said Della Terza. "We anticipate this change bringing similar, positive results as those seen at other libraries in our area."